Night parrot feather discovered in South Australia gives hope to ecologists

By AG Staff September 14, 2017
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An array of complex clues has lead to the discovery of a very recognisable, bright green feather that ecologists say, belongs to the elusive night parrot.

A TEAM of ecologists from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy have discovered a bright green feather, which they say belongs to the elusive night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis).

The feather, hidden in the nest of zebra finch located in a patch of samphire near Lake Eyre, is the first sign of the nocturnal bird in South Australia for over a century.

Now, ecologists have said that it’s clear that small populations of the endangered bird could exist across several states and territories.

The search was first ignited by footage captured in 2016 of a peculiar shape, resembling that of the night parrot, lurking around the Lake Eyre region.

night parrot

Images from the camera trap. (Image Credit: Australian Wildlife Conservancy)

Ecologists John Young and Keith Bellchambers, aware of previous recordings of the night parrot around this area in 1883, didn’t rule out the possibility that this could be the parrot they were looking for; however the footage wasn’t enough to convince them, so the two returned to the area and began an intense search for potential night parrot habitats.

A game changer for John and Keith came in the form of a wedge-tailed eagle’s nest, which they found just across from the patches of samphire they’d been surveying. Knowing that zebra finches often nest under these eagles nests, and also that these birds line their nests with feathers; the two ecologists were hopeful that the finches may have utilised a loose feather of the night parrot.  And to their surprise, they were right.

“Zebra Finches just love to build their nests in the base of a Wedge-tailed Eagle’s nest, so we walked over to investigate. Keith and I looked at many Zebra Finches’ nests before finally an unmistakable small green feather appeared within the fresh base lining of one of the nests,” John said.

“People show excitement in many different ways, mine was to shake uncontrollably with numbing excitement and Keith’s was sheer disbelief with his hands holding his head. An incredibly emotional time for both of us.” 

Out of concern for the birds safety Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews has warned birdwatchers to keep their distance. 

“Australians love their wildlife and bird watchers from time to time can have a reputation for being quirky and interested to find birds, but AWC will do its best to protect this population,” he told ABC News.

night parrot feather

The feather discovered in the zebra finches nest. (Image Credit: Australian Wildlife Conservancy)